Basil El Halwagy
Fine Art Superheroes

A photograph of a young person dressed in a yellow and green patterned bodysuit with yellow face and body paint. They sport a matching ornamental headpiece and are engaged in a deep lunge. They lean slightly over their left thigh while their right leg extends to the side. Their arms are open and raised to either side in an athletic stance. Their face maintains a stoic expression, as they look past their left arm. They stand on a stone ledge in front of a grassy park area.
Doñagdeo at Northeastern University Gathering at the Gateway performed by Wisty Andres, performance photography, 2017

[Image Description: A figure in a yellow and green suit and headdress in a deep side squat.]

Basil El Halwagy intervenes in our consciousness and public spaces at an epic level. Epic in the literal sense. Each of his Fine Art Superheroes seems to have stepped into Boston’s parades, block parties or live-streamed events from the realm of legend or mythology.

Doñagdeo, El Halwagy’s avatar for transformation, is a sinuous spell of emerald green, rich gold and ruby red. Patterned with Middle Eastern filigree, Doñagdeo emerges from and intertwines with the city’s architectural details: looks upward at vaulted arches, backward at history embedded in and shifted across the building blocks of a metropolis.

Like all of El Halwagy’s superheroes, Doñagdeo is a character, a costume, but also a dancing body—performing ritualistic gestures that slice flowing, geometrical patterns into spaces where the air is thick with power accumulated in the past and wielded in the present.

Doñagdeo also embodies a call for revision of outmoded models of heroism. The motifs that each of El Halwagy’s heroes is grounded in highlight our aching need for icons relevant to 21st century concerns.

Electrostar’s tessellated interplay of blue and white stars and hexagrams, transferred directly from the door of a mosque in El Halwagy’s native Egypt, creates an immediate simultaneity between ‘here’ and ‘there’, resonant to a planet full of migrants, hearts split between timezones. And Untitled Man, whose “creatory system” flows rope-like across his limbs, has a blank face. He stands in for our generative capacity, innovation, a readiness to leap into new form when the spark of inspiration strikes.

Especially important now is El Halwagy’s incarnation of protest:

Remon is dappled with single letters of Arabic script. It is as if smoke from inflamed cries of injustice has risen up and enveloped this body.

The only legible word in the calligraphy rippling across Remon’s skin is the Arabic glyph for “NO!” resounded with equal strength from every angle, while the head, perhaps just slightly above the fray, bears a Sufi emblem for divinity.

El Halwagy’s work is bold, radioactive wizardry, encouraging us to step, larger than life, into epic roles, and shape new ways of being beyond current imagination.

— Heather Kapplow

A group of four dancers dressed in different colored patterned bodysuits with matching headpieces take various stances in a grassy park area. From left to right, a squatting figure in a white and black and helmet looks over his left shoulder. A figure in a yellow and green patterned suit wearing a large headpiece that covers the top half of their face stands facing the photographer with their arms outstretched and left leg pointed. In the background a figure in a deep squat wears a maroon and white patterned bodysuit with a white facial mask affixed to the crown of their head. In the foreground and to the far right a figure in a blue and white bodysuit with a large headpiece stands with their back to the photographer, their left leg crossed in front of the right, and arms outstretched in motion.
Remon, Doñagdeo, The Untitled Man, and Electrostar at Northeastern University Gathering at the Gateway, performed by Frederick Moss, Wisty Andres, Haissan Booth, and Marissa Molinar, performance photography, 2017

[Image Description: Four figures in colored bodysuits in dramatic, dance-like poses.]
A photograph of a woman wearing a bodysuit with a blue and orange geometric pattern that matches her halo-like headpiece. Her face and hands are painted blue to match the costume. She stands with her arms outstretched; her gaze directed towards her right hand which pinches the air delicately. She is outdoors, with buildings, a red traffic light, and several blurred figures in the background.
Piridalil at Cambridge River Fest, performed by Stacy Badgett Jr., performance photography, 2019

[Image Description: A person clad in blue and orange with matching facepaint holds their arms up to the sides.]
A photograph of a man dressed in a black and white patterned bodysuit and matching decorative superhero-like helmet stands gently turned with his right hip against a large metal pole. He hinges slightly at the hips, his left arm stretched behind him to grip the pole while his right-hand rests on his left thigh.
Remon at Northeastern University Gathering at the Gateway, performed by Frederick Moss, performance photography, 2017

[Image Description: A person in black and white looking over their shoulder while twisting around a post.]

Artist Biography

Egyptian/American artist Basil El Halwagy is the creator of the Fine Art Superheroes. El Halwagy creates wearable art-characters and produces performances and photographic works, in collaboration with contemporary dancers. El Halwagy draws inspiration from his experience growing up in Cairo, Egypt; a uniquely Arab, Egyptian, and metropolitan city.

In 2020, El Halwagy's photographs were featured in AREA CODE art fair, an online exhibition project curated by Octavio Zaya. In the fall of 2020 El Halwagy self-produced Origins Performance Series, A live performance series streaming on youtube and featuring the Fine Art Superheroes. El Halwagy has brought performance art to the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts, Mobius Art Space, and FigmentBoston. In November of 2020, El Halwagy received the Red Bull Arts and Culture microgrant, and in February 2021, he opened Two If By Sea, a solo exhibition at Atlantic Wharf Gallery in Boston, with funding and support from the Fort Point Arts Community.